The Language “Situation”

Separate Reality TV catchphrase battles involving the "Jersey Shore" abs king and a "Storage Wars" star are a bunch of yada, yada, yada...

Oh, my God – Reality TV is killing catchphrases!

That's the not-so dy-no-mite! realization we arrived at this week amid news of two separate legal battles involving reality show "stars" trying to protect – and profit from – their often inane utterances.

The Situation reignited his mutually publicity friendly feud with Abercrombie & Fitch – which offered to pay him to stop wearing its clothing on "Jersey Shore" – by suing the retailer. Reuters reports the fist-pumper is irked by, among other things, shirts emblazoned with "The Fitchuation" and "GTL" (a "Shore"-inspired acronym for "gym, tan and laundry").

Meanwhile, the New York Post notes that "Storage Wars" character Dave Hester (no known relation to this writer) is in a war of words with rapper Trey Songz over "Yuuup!" Hester's T-shirt-ready exclamation is apparently similar to the rapper's signature sound (question: Will all be resolved if Hester drops or adds a "U?").

Our first impulse is to say, "You're fired!" to the whole bunch, but Donald Trump might get on our case. We’ll leave the legal implications to others – we see the suits as more signs of how pervasive and ingrained Reality TV shows have become in the popular culture.

Catchphrases are entertainment mysteries, worming their way into our collective consciousness, usually defying any explanation – not that there's anything wrong with that. They can, for better or worse, define careers ("What you talkin' about, Willis?") or become part of the language ("Yada, yada, yada").

In years past, catchphrases generally arose from scripted programs, giving us memorable connections to favorite shows, a shorthand reference to latch onto ("That's what she said!").

The legal wranglings reflect a larger shift away from well-written entertainment toward (ostensibly) non-scripted shows of varying quality. The junk that fills the entertainment gap has become fodder for verbal memes that are harder to permanently get rid of than Kenny from “South Park.”  

To paraphrase "The Bachelor,” that's a thorny rose we're not quite ready to accept.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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